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Ports and Community Grants—Hampton Roads, Virginia

Written by Leroy Green III

Headshot of Leroy Green III

My name is Leroy Green III, and I am a resident of the Hampton Roads region and serve as the Ports Community Liaison for Ocean Conservancy. Recently, I have been documenting the experience of other Hampton Roads residents and found that we are all subjected to environmental injustice. I’ve had very interesting conversations with community leaders who have shared their projects and initiatives not only to address these issues but also to solve them through their organizations. I would like to welcome you to apply for Ocean Conservancy’s the Ports Community Grants—here.

I know that creating sustainable partnerships with port-based organizations to understand their needs and goals and highlighting their roles in the port’s economic ecosystem is a must! To accomplish this goal of creating environmental justice in communities where there has been little or none—particularly in the face of the impacts of climate change—Ocean Conservancy has created this grants program to help people and communities that resemble the following illustration.

Imagine you are a Hampton Roads resident. You’re at work and have been waiting for the moment the workday ends; it’s the final countdown to your liberation. The employees stand up in unison, the symphony of feet making their way to their vehicles. Like a small school of fish, they all head upstream on I-64 East towards Hampton, Virginia, after a long day at work. You have reached the first landmark in your odyssey back home, the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, a two-lane snake that connects cities separated by water and designed to submerge underground to allow cargo ships to mobilize. While waiting in traffic, you roll your window down and the air impolitely invites the smell of burnt coal on a grill from the exhaust pipe at the end of a Port of Virginia eighteen—wheeler. Traffic is always backed up for when many jobs end for the day. With this amount of traffic, CO2 emissions invade your breathing space in your car, as well as throughout the environment. You think about your health and then roll your window back up.

Traffic is clear as you continue your odyssey to Hampton Roads district. You salute at your alma mater, Hampton University, one of the pillars of education and a symbol African American culture. You make your way further up I-64 and exit off Jefferson Avenue. Right under the bridge that guided you, you see the vast dark tower with red eyes blinking at the tomb of coal rocks in its yard. Mountains of all sizes of coal impersonating Mt. Olympus looks down at the neighboring residents, divided only by a series of fences with homes of many of the Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) communities in Hampton Roads. Or at least the homes were there.

What you really see is a vast vacant field of grass and debris, the final embers of what was once a vibrant community. Unfortunately, this area has suffered the same plague as most minority-centered communities: blue economic prosperity. The $92 billion dollars that the Hampton Roads region generated through their ports and coal terminals did not convey to the communities that harbor their toxic wastes. The fruits of labor were not fed to those starving for acknowledgment of their history, dehydrated from the same economic well that the gatekeepers and stakeholders consume, and deprived of academic opportunities to become more informed and proactive professionals in the same maritime industry in which the Hampton Roads region continues to flourish.

I share this because it is important to me to share the legacy of a community that has been impacted by climate change and environmental injustice and champion the leaders of change. With this open call for grants, we are leveraging our platform at Ocean Conservancy to power projects coordinated by BIPOC community leaders. If you felt represented by the picture I just painted, please apply here!

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